27 Jun Uber granted 15 month operator license in London
A judge has ruled that Uber is now a ‘fit and proper’ company and granted a 15 month license to operate in London.
On Tuesday, Chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot said the company was now, in her opinion, ready for a renewal following the decision last September by Transport for London to block the company from renewing its license to operate for another five years.
The taxi hailing app admitted to a judge during an appeal which began on Monday that TfL was right to have safety concerns but said it had since made “wholesale” reforms.
The decision not to renew was seen as highly controversial with the company wrongly saying that thousands of drivers – who are self employed – would be put out of work.
Uber was not considered ‘fit and proper’ to retain an operating licence in London because of its failure to report crimes in London. It was revealed 2,500 Uber drivers had been investigated for suspected crimes including sexual assaults, stalking and dangerous driving. It was also revealed that hundreds of thousands of passengers’ data had been hacked.
After TfL denied them a licence in September York and Brighton followed suit.
In altering the decision by TfL, judge Emma Arbuthnot said: “A decision had been made that Uber was no longer fit and proper to be granted a licence.
“But evidence has been provided by ULL (Uber London Ltd) today that it is fit and proper to hold a licence.
“ULL has shown evidence that it is making efforts to change its operations, procedure and governance.
“I have given particular consideration to the agreed conditions between ULL and TFL. ULL will update TFL in the effectiveness of its complaints procedures every 6 months.
“It is clear that personal safety is TFL’s chief priority,” she added. “The question comes down to whether uber can be trusted and whether it has change and will maintain that change when these proceedings fall away.”
Fareed Baloch of Zoom.taxi said he was “unsurprised” by the decision. “We have discovered via Freedom of Information Act requests that Uber and TfL have held meetings prior to this hearing.*
“TfLs proposed changes to operator licenses are so skewed in favour of companies the size of Uber that it would have been more surprising if the license had not been renewed.
“I fully anticipate that after 15 months they will be granted a full license and TfL will enjoy the £2.9 million cash injection that license is set to cost.
“Sadly this means that we stand to see a monopoly in the private hire market in London with TfL’s aggressive new pricing structure putting smaller companies out of business whilst Uber, whose drivers are self employed so can charge 20% less and allow the company to employ tax breaks, will thrive.”
Steve McNamara, General Secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), slammed the decision, saying the organisation would be “consulting lawyers”.
“We’re disappointed that the Court has sided with Uber and the firm has been given an 15-month licence to operate in London.
“Uber’s blatant disregard for TfL’s regulations and public safety was laid before the Court.
“The justice system has failed Londoners today and let an aggressive multinational corporation win. Uber is not a fit and proper operator and the LTDA will be consulting its lawyers as to how we can hold it to account and keep streets safe for Londoners.”
Uber will have to pay TfL’s legal costs of £425,000 but this will be small change to the company which is financed by billionaire investors.
*The Commissioner met with Dara Khosrowshahi on 3 October 2017 and 15 January 2018, both meetings took place in London.